The Soup Bowl’s board and supporters broke ground on Monday for a new location on property donated by First Baptist Church McClellan.
Kim Beckett, Anniston Soup Bowl executive director, said the new location is half a block from the old location on Moore Avenue near Zinn Park. The Soup Bowl’s new home will be on West 15th Street and Circle Drive. Beckett hopes the new facility will be finished by the end of July.
“We have outgrown it and the facility is in need of repair,” Beckett said. “We have outgrown what we’re able to do in that facility.”
Beckett and Lee Shafer, the priest director of Grace Episcopal Church, blessed the ground with holy water where the new Anniston Soup Bowl will be built.
“Grace Episcopal Church started the Soup Bowl with the old building,” Shafer said. “Now that it has grown, it is wonderful to have the new facility.”
Beckett added the Soup Bowl started out serving 35 people per day in 1984 in a two-story building that was once a home. She said the Soup Bowl needs a commercial kitchen to meet the community’s need. Staff and volunteers serve more than 100 a day now, and there is no dishwasher. Every dish must be washed by hand. Canned goods overflow the two shelves in the kitchen. The food must be carried to the second floor.
“We do this in faith. We don’t ask questions,” Beckett said. “It’s obvious because it’s the working poor, retired and homeless. We don’t ask for an income.”
Food is donated by churches, Food Outlet, Piggly Wiggly, Super Value, Publix, Panera Bread, Longhorn Steakhouse, Chic-Fil-A and Pizza Hut.
Justin Bowman, a cook at the Anniston Soup Bowl, prepared Brunswick stew, pinto beans, turnip greens and cornbread for lunch after the groundbreaking ceremony.
“Sometimes we judge the amount of food based on the number of people from the day before,” Bowman said. “If one serving didn’t do it, then we give them extra.”
According to Beckett, the new kitchen will be approximately three times bigger than the current kitchen.
“We can seat 29 people now,” Beckett said. “People have to stand in line and wait to sit down and eat.”
The new facility will have the capacity to seat 70 people at one time and serve between 200 and 300 if needed.
“It’s important because of what it does for the community. The clients can walk here,” said Roland Brown, president of the Soup Bowl Board of Directors.
Brown said the cost of the new facility is between $250,000 and $300,000. The new building has been funded through anonymous donations so far, but there is still a need for more funding.
“We don’t have but a third of that,” Brown said. “We are confident that the community will complete the cycle.”